DNR bans possession of 3 fish
Asian carp, white perch already in state; snakeheads also seen as threat to
By Tammy Webber
November 22, 2002
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources has issued an emergency rule
making it illegal to buy, sell or possess three kinds of fish so aggressive
and prolific that officials fear they're capable of taking over state
Asian carp, snakehead fish and white perch are voracious eaters that quickly
outcompete native fish for food or eat the fish. Currently, only the Asian
carp and white perch are known to be in state waterways.
But officials worry that the snakehead, a native of Asia sold by aquarium
shops and some Asian food markets, could be released by their owners. In
Maryland, a man released two fish into a four-acre pond two years ago. By the
time the fish -- capable of growing to 40 inches and 15 pounds -- were
discovered this spring, there were hundreds.
The rule, which takes effect Dec. 1, requires anyone who catches or owns any
of the fish to destroy them immediately. Failure to do so is a misdemeanor
punishable by up to 60 days in jail or a $500 fine.
Officials are especially concerned that Asian carp -- which can grow to 4
feet and weigh 90 pounds -- could reach the Great Lakes, where scientists say
they could quickly devastate native fish populations and collapse fisheries.
Brought to the United States for food, the carp escaped from southern fish
ponds during flooding in the 1990s and have destroyed some commercial
fisheries in the Mississippi River. They now are within 50 miles of Lake
Michigan in Illinois; an electric barrier at the Sanitary and Ship Canal near
Chicago is the only thing between the fish and the lake.
In Indiana, the carp are already in tributaries of the Ohio and Wabash
rivers. Just one careless fisherman transporting it to a waterway that leads
to Lake Michigan could change the course of nature, DNR Director John Goss
"We certainly don't want to be the guilty party that allows this to happen to
the Great Lakes, the largest freshwater source in the world," Goss said. "The
Asian carp invasion is the most current and most spectacular in recent
memory. We are determined to stop them."
White perch, Atlantic-state natives that grow to just under a foot, already
are in the Great Lakes and have been found in some northern Indiana lakes. In
some cases, they comprised 88 percent of a lake's population within a few
years, said Gwen White, DNR fisheries program specialist.
Goss said anglers should notify the agency if they spot any of the banned
fish in a lake or river. Aquarium owners who need help disposing of a
snakehead can call the DNR, he said.
Officials said they know of no Indiana stores that sell any of the fish.
Local aquarium owners contacted by The Star said they stopped selling
snakeheads after the Maryland incident, although most were tropical varieties
unlikely to survive Indiana winters.
"We weighed the pros and cons of continuing to sell them and decided it
wasn't worth taking the chance that one idiot would release a fish that got
too big for captivity," said Kevin Hoovler, owner of The Reef pet shop in
White said officials have good reason to be concerned about irresponsible
owners. In the past two years, there have been several reports of people
catching piranhas that were released by their owners.
"We consider it a form of biological littering that pollutes the water like
chemicals," White said.
Another concern is that snakeheads are capable of living out of water for
several days and flopping across land to other waterways, she said.
Environmental officials say they have learned that they must respond quickly
to nonnative species.
Zebra mussels, thumbnail-size mollusks that reached the Great Lakes in the
mid-1980s in ships' ballast water, also are found in Indiana waterways, where
they clog intake pipes, change water chemistry and threaten native mussels.
The gizzard shad, a small fish that eats plankton and is a popular prey for
other fish, has outgrown predators in some lakes and reservoirs in southern
Indiana. And the Chinese mystery snail, first sold to clean tanks and ponds,
now is clogging power company intake screens along the Wabash River, White
Given the history of previous invasions, the DNR's new ban is a welcome move,
said Marc Gaden , spokesman for the Ann Arbor, Mich.-based Great Lakes
"We as a region need to look at every way possible to keep these species out
of our lakes," he said. "I would just applaud Indiana; I think it's
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